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I went to a very unconventional primary school. A big part of our education was to learn to appreciate our natural surroundings – not just in a superficial “those clouds are nice” way, either. We went outside every day, rain or shine. Our school was right on the edge of a beautiful public park, so it was a really special place for kids to explore and play. I think I want to protect our environment for that almost selfish reason; I love our earth for the memories its given me thus far, and I hope that I can preserve its splendor and health for my own enjoyment, and the enjoyment of generations to come.
I think it’s most difficult to overcome the stigma. Especially my project, working with eliminating disposable plastics, people often feel stuck when you approach them. There aren’t many alternatives to single use plastic, and the ones that do exist are not highly publicized or commonly known. I have found that while people invested in the issue – or ones like it – are extremely receptive and concerned, lots of people just don’t want to talk about it. I think they have an expectation that I’m going to yell at them and tell them they’re killing the planet and make them feel bad – I hope I never do that!
The reaction of my school mates thus far. People started coming to me and asking me questions, texting me about plastic, telling me when they didn’t use a straw or brought their reusable shopping bags. Everyone has been really helpful working on the project with us as well, and the questions and issues they raise are very valid. I was really empowered when they were so positive and excited about the project; once they knew what the problem was, they wanted to stop it too.
Plasti-Gone is a student run initiative to eliminate disposable plastic on school campuses. We’ve been working on the project for about two months now, and even though I’m going off to college, we have a “Plasti-Gone Team” set up at school that will continue our initiative at Nichols. Basically, what we hope to do is connect Great Lakes schools in the fight against disposable plastics. Each participating school will sign our Plasti-Gone Pledge, and then take the steps outlined in our pledge to achieve a plastic free campus. There are three levels of achievement (albatross, sea turtle and seal) that a school can set as their goal. We have quite a few interested schools, and we’re really hoping that Plasti-Gone takes off in the fall.
I don’t have a specific dream – people are too unpredictable for me to even begin to foretell anything. We’re constantly doing amazing things and innovating in ways that make me go, “woah, I never saw that coming.” I do have hope that we can learn to actually work together on the big issues – climate change and planet preservation especially, because it really is one of the only things that we all share indiscriminately. Every person on this earth lives… on this earth – it is vitally important that we save it. I hope that 20 years from now the rhetoric will have stopped and big, influential steps will have been put into place to push us into a future where we live together with the earth and not in opposition to it.
I certainly hope so! I can tell you that I’m extremely interested in law and environmental science, so I’m hoping that when I get to college I’ll be able to construct some sort of hybrid of the two. I’d like to be influential in creating or advocating for policies that legitimately protect our environment, or inventing my own solutions to the issue. I can promise, that even if I don’t do something vastly important, I will not be using disposable plastic bags or plastic straws ever again.
---------------------------------------------------Why did you join your school’s Eco-Action Team?
I joined Bothell’s Earth Club in order to help make an impact on our generation. By being a leader in helping our environment I can get others involved and know that the future is in good hands. I wanted to participate in something that I am passionate about and do my part in protecting this world. I helped to create an Eco-Action Team at Skyview Jr High in order to get younger kids involved also. It’s like a sports program, by getting these kids involved and hooked at a younger age they will continue to care through high school and can continue to make an even larger impact.
What projects have you been working on as part of the team?
At Bothell our major focus has been on teaching students to recycle properly and helping them develop good, eco-friendly habits. We have also worked on lowering our school’s energy usage by turning the thermostat down and encouraging teachers to turn off the lights when they leave the classroom. At Skyview we put up an owl house created by a local community member inside of our 6.5 acre environmental center. We also put up eight birdhouses built by other junior high students. Along with this the Skyview Green Team has monitored the water quality of the school’s retention pond and educated the school on ways students can protect their local watershed and prevent further harm to the local streams. Finally, I have spent over 16 hours on four weekend work parties at Skyview’s environmental center this year. Here I removed non-native plants like Himalayan Blackberries and Scottsbroom, planted native plants like Pacific Nine Bark, Lady Fern, Vine Maple, and Elderberry, and led construction on a new gravel trail along the outside of the center.
What inspires you to protect the environment?
“What have you done for your grandchildren today?” This quote is one of the many things that inspires me to protect the environment. I keep in mind that everything I do today impacts the future of my own family and entire community. I want my children and grandchildren to be able to enjoy the amazing world around us in the same ways that I have. I don’t want the environment to be ruined for them and so I am doing my part in helping to protect it. Knowing I can begin to make a difference and that I can lead others to change their ways for the better of the environment drives me to keep fighting. If we don’t speak for nature who will? I enjoy spending time in nature, especially doing activities like hiking and watching animals. Nature both calms me and excites me and it’s where I go when I’m feeling down. I want future generations to have these same opportunities and experiences and so I work to protect the environment.
What has been the most difficult part of working to protect the environment?
The hardest part has been getting support from my fellow students and school staff members. Many people today seem to live with the mentality that someone else will solve the problem, or they don’t make that big of a difference in the overall picture. The hardest part has been breaking this mentality and getting everyone to buy into the idea of protecting our environment. I haven’t met any opposition; it’s just that I haven’t met much support either.
What has been the coolest part of working to protect the environment?
The coolest part of working to protect the environment has been knowing that my efforts are part of a larger picture and have a larger, indirect effect on the world than what we see at our school. I have also really enjoyed getting to work outside in Skyview’s environmental center and learning more about the world around me.
What is your vision for the world in 20 years?
My vision of 20 years from now is more student leadership and interest in the fight to protect our environment. Not everyone has to be directly involved, but people will have the knowledge to properly recycle and take steps to save water and energy in order to save our natural resources. In 20 years people will accept the idea of balancing our human wants with the needs of the environment. Schools all around the nation will be recycling, composting, and teaching environmental science in the classroom. I imagine a world that is just as healthy, if not healthier than it is today and a world population that cares enough to accept the idea of living sustainably.
Do you see yourself working to protect the environment when you grow up? In what ways?
I definitely see myself continuing to help the environment when I grow up. I have yet to decide if I want to go into the environmental science work field, but I will for sure be encouraging the people around me to do their part in helping the environment. I will also teach my kids proper sustainable skills and encourage them to protect their environment. I see myself spreading the word and continuing to educate young people because you can’t appreciate what you don’t understand.
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